Silent PC Review is passionate about ergonomic spaces for people and finding creative, practical solutions to silencing all kinds of IT machines. We provide detailed reviews and ground-breaking knowhow about the acoustics of computers and components, as well as their energy efficiency and thermal performance.

Review: 4 Socket-A Heavyweight Heatsinks

Cooling
Three celebrated heavyweights and a renown low-noise specialist in our first heatsink roundup review. The contenders: Thermalright SLK800 and AX7, the venerable Swiftech MC462A, and the CNPS6000Cu from low noise specialist Zalman. We know how they do with loud high airflow fans, but how about a Panaflo at 12, 7... and even 5 volts?

The need for silence

Why are we hungry for silence? Or is it just the absence of noise we long for? Well, living in busy cities we want to control the noise. We want to choose.

This summer I read about silent computers and my mind wandered back. Ahhhhh, those were the days VIC-20, ZX81, C64, no noise! I almost had forgotten them. Why can we have something quiet like those? Well, I bought the EPIA mini-itx with the C3 processor. I knew what I wanted. Listening to streaming radio and writing and now and then surfing the net.

But ....

University of BC Fan Noise & Airflow Research Project

Fans|Controls
Hard drive noise is well documented by manufacturers, but fan noise is not. As fans are the only serious noise sources in a PC other than HDDs, this research will help all who want the real facts about fans. An anechoic chamber, serious sound analysis tools, final-year mech engineering undergrads, acoustics professionals and corporate sponsors from the PC industry are involved in this exciting collaborative project.

21 PSU Roundup at Tom's Hardware

A roundup of power supplies at Tom's Hardware including noise tests and power output capability. The staff of five (sigh!) who worked on the review built their own load PSU tester and failed 6 units, including 3 that did the BANG! thing. Some highly ranked models are obviously available only in Europe. Definitely worth a read.

Seagate Barracuda V reviewed by Storage Review

Storage Review has a review on the new Seagate Barracuda ATA V hard drive. According to the review, Seagate has reduced their hard drive warranties from 3 years to 1 year starting October 1, which is certainly bad news. The good news is that Storage Review found the Barracuda V to be 3.5db quieter than its predecessor, the Barracuda IV. The difference seems large enough to be beyond a reasonable margin of error. The V may be a new standard bearer.

SPCR featured in Vancouver paper, The Georgia Straight

A while ago, someone suggested contacting Dave Watson, the tech columnist at a local paper (in Vancouver, BC, Canada where I live), to see if he'd write up something about SPCR, maybe bring more exposure to the site. So I did, an interview ensued, and here's the result in the Georgia Straight.

About the paper: "Established as the lifestyle and entertainment weekly in Vancouver for over 30 years, the Georgia Straight is an integral part of the active urban West Coast lifestyle with a per issue readership in excess of 369,000."

The University of BC anechoic chamber student project mentioned at the end of the article is happening! I have the role of an "industry consultant" (or some such thing) for 3 final-year mechanical engineering students who are examining DC fans (noise / airflow / vibes @ various voltages) used in PCs. They are guided by Prof. Murray Hodgson, UBC's specialist in acoustics and the manager of their anechoic chamber.

I've doggedly pursued this one for most of 2002. Finally! Thankfully, some corporate sponsors have promised support for this project by way of funds as well as equipment and materials. Naturally, results from this project will be published here at SPCR on an ongoing basis.

Zalman releases Fanless VGA heatsink ZM80-HP

It seems that Zalman has finally released their long awaited fanless heatpipe GPU cooler, the ZM80-HP. With cooling fins on both sides of the card, there is hope that this new cooler can run the hottest GPUs completely fanless. It's available from SPCR sponsor Silicon Acoustics for ~US$40.

Nasty CPU-Burn Bug in Microsoft Word!

Reader Matt Richards wrote in this morning about a nasty anomalie in Microsoft Word that pushes CPU usage to 100 percent "if the background spell checking option in the Works 2000 word processor is selected," according to a MS Knowledge Base article. His well documented letter is of interest to all WORD users. Just click on READ MORE to read his letter.

New Ultra Low Voltage Celeron 400

It's like turning the clock back a few years. Intel just announced a New Ultra Low Voltage Celeron running at 400 MHz "for fanless, small form-factor embedded computing applications." This is obviously the same market occupied by the VIA C3, the EPIA platform, and the Transmeta. The 0.13 micron, 256 KB cache ULV Celeron appears to be a socket 370 variant called uFCBGA or BGA2 and runs on just 0.95 volts. Maximum power dissipation is a measely 4.2W, less than half that produced by the latest C3s. It is priced at US$38 in 1000 lots. It will be interesting to see what developers do with boards for the new cool kid on the block.

Rusty's Quiet In-Desk PC

Do-It-Yourself Systems
Computing enthusiast Rusty took a wholly different approach to the issue of PC noise: he built his right into the desk! While it may not make the big computing companies scramble to define a new desk (not desktop) form factor, Rusty's inventive techniques will surely have quiet computing enthusiasts poring over his fine work. His article is a preliminary work, mostly a visual exposition; the author hopes to fill out the details in time.

Via Eden & C3 Futures

Coverage about the VIA Eden (Mini-ITX) platform from CeBIT 2002 in Hannover at Digit-Life. Also at Digit-Life, Eden and C3 CPU roadmaps for the next year, from the Via Technology Forum in Taipei last week: By Q3 2003, the ESP processors used in Eden are expected to reach 1GHz and higher. While Eden development seems assured, Digit-Life conjectures whether the C3 will be dropped now that Intel has officially phased out socket 370. Still, in Q4 this year VIA plans to ship 1GHz Nehemiah-based C3 processors supporting MMX and SSE1. 1.1/1.2/1.3/1.4 GHz products are scheduled for the next year.

Pandora offer "Quietest PC you'll never hear"

"The quietest PC that you'll never hear" is the slogan for the Tranquility™ Mini-Tower by Panadora Digital Media Systems, a young California firm that offers online purchasing. The Tranquility™ features read like one of our projects -- cool VIA C3 processors, high efficiency heatsinks, quiet thermal fans, NoVibes-suspended Barracuda drives with side heatsinks (they've been reading SPCR carefully) and other neat details. It looks like a good, very quiet, ready-made solution. You might also want to check out Pandora's simply-named BigBox & SmallBox, described as the lowest cost networked data storage servers for home and office use.

Intel's new Thermal/Fan Control Motherboards

Intel's announcement today about the release of 4 new chipsets and 6 new motherboards failed to mention that all these boards utilize the ADI 1027 dBCool thermal control chip mentioned in our IDF coverage report. Intel says their Precision Cooling Technology provides these benefits:

  • Fan speeds adjust real time according to system temperatures
  • Reduces unnecessary noise & energy consumption
  • OS-independent – not affected by a software failure or virus
  • Separate thermal zones for CPU & system temperature
  • Default setting programmed into BIOS
  • Controlled by an advanced management ASIC
  • Vantec's "Stealth" 420W Power Supply

    Power
    Heatsink maker Vantec branched out with their new line of high power "Stealth" power supplies recently. We put their 420W model, the VAN-420A, through its paces with all 3 of its fan blazing. An unfortunate accident with our new PSU Load Tester addition to our test bench blew up one sample but did not set any blazes. Read the Vantec 420A PSU review here.

    OCZ Claims Eliminator Heatsink "Eliminates" fan!

    OCZ's pitch: "By using a heatsink constructed of 100% skived copper, the P4 Eliminator can keep your P4 running cool, "eliminating" the need for a fan! The P4 Eliminator utilizes high grade copper and large surface area to effectively reduce the extreme thermal temperatures associated with Intel Pentium 4 processors." I personally do not think this heatsink can sufficiently cool a P4 without a fan, but the large fully copper surface area may allow cooler operation of hot P4 cpu's even with quieter, slower spinning fans.